Hair Removal Practices: A Literature Review

Cindy Na-Young Kang, BMSc; Monica Shah, MD; Charles Lynde, MD, FRCPC; Patrick Fleming, MD, MSc, FRCPC

Disclosures

Skin Therapy Letter. 2021;26(5):6-11. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

Hair removal practices have evolved from adhering to social, cultural, and religious traditions to meeting aesthetic standards. Hair removal methods can be divided into two categories: 1) depilation, which involves removing the hair shaft and includes shaving and chemical depilatories, and 2) epilation, which involves removing the hair shaft, follicle, and bulb, and includes plucking, threading, waxing, sugaring, lasers, intense pulsed light system, electrolysis, and photodynamic therapy. Furthermore, an eflornithine hydrochloride 13.9% cream (Vaniqa®, neither an epilatory or depilatory technique), has been US FDA- and Health Canada-approved to slow the rate of facial hair growth and to be used in combination with other hair removal methods. All methods are temporary except for electrolysis, and each technique has advantages and disadvantages in terms of efficacy and adverse events. Importantly, most studies examining the efficacy of hair removal techniques are limited to darker hair and fairer skin, and further research is required especially for those with light-colored hair.

Introduction

Hair removal methods fall under two categories of depilation and epilation, each with distinctive advantages, disadvantages, and adverse events (Table 1).[1] Depilation removes the hair shaft and includes techniques such as shaving and chemical depilatories. Epilation removes the hair shaft, follicle, and bulb, and includes techniques such as plucking, threading, waxing, sugaring, lasers, intense pulsed light system (IPL), electrolysis, and photodynamic therapy (PDT).[1] In the 2000s, eflornithine hydrochloride cream 13.9% (Vaniqa®) was US FDA and Health Canada approved. Topical eflornithine is not considered an epilatory or depilatory technique but slows the rate of facial hair growth when used in conjunction with other methods.[2]

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